Two teams in desperate need of a victory square off Tuesday night as No. 23 Texas Tech faces Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan.
Texas Tech and Kansas State combined in 2018-19 to end Kansas' streak of 14 straight years with at least a share of the Big 12 Conference title. This year, however, has notbeen easy for either team.
Texas Tech (10-5, 1-2 Big 12) is coming off two consecutive losses, at home against now-No. 2 Baylor and at No. 12 West Virginia. The struggling Wildcats (7-8, 0-3) have lost five of their past six games.
Texas Tech started well with five consecutive wins before losing three straight games. It appeared Chris Beard's club turned a corner when the Red Raiders knocked off then-No. 1 Louisville 70-57 in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. That started another five-game winning streak prior to the back-to-back losses in conference play.
Texas Tech has four players averaging in double figures, led by Jahmi'us Ramsey at 16.8. He is joined by Davide Moretti (13.0), Terrence Shannon Jr. (11.6) and Kyler Edwards (10.5).
The 66-54 loss to West Virginia was particularly troubling for Beard. The Red Raiders were held to just 28.4 percent (21 of 74) from the field, and they were outrebounded 46-33.
"One of many parts of West Virginia's identity is their size," Beard said. "They're kind of a unique team. They're a team you don't see much in college basketball anymore with their two bigs. We had some game plan stuff we wanted to get to, but game plans kind of go out the door when you can't score.
"I hate the coach that gets up here and talks about how we couldn't make a shot. The reason we couldn't make a shot was the other team was well-coached, has good players, was dialed in and played great defense. There certainly were possessions where we couldn't get into our offense, no doubt about it, but I think it is safe to say we had good looks that we have to knock down."
The Wildcats' eight losses have been by an average of less than seven points per game.
Kansas State led in the second half of every game this season prior to Saturday's 64-50 loss at Texas. The Longhorns used a 20-2 run over 9:14 of game time sandwiched around halftime before pulling away to a comfortable margin.
"I thought our guys responded fairly well in the first half, but they made four 3-pointers with under 2-3 seconds on the shot clock, including the one at the end of the half," Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber said following that loss. "Those really hurt. I thought we continued to battle, but they really started the second half with a good run and we really couldn't get anything going offensively.
"I thought the biggest thing was how physical Texas was defensively. It really rattled our guys and we didn't keep our poise. In the first half, we were able to get some transition points, but in the second half, they were really efficient on offense and didn't turn it over as much."
The Wildcats are led by senior Xavier Sneed with 14.6 points per game, with Cartier Diarra (12.1) the only other player in double figures. Makol Mawien averages just 7.6 points per game.
"We have a tough week coming up," Weber said. "It will be a test of our team's resolve and our senior leadership."
--Field Level Media